Elizabeth Yang is a divorce attorney. She makes a living counseling individuals who want to end their marriages.
So, it should come as no surprise that Yang thinks there might be an alternative to traditional marriage. And she discusses it in her recently published book, “Social Marriage: All You Need Is Love.”
Yang said with divorce numbers at all time highs, it’s no wonder people are searching for different types of marriage.
“The divorce rate is more than 50 percent,” she said. “And that’s for first-time marriages. For second marriages, it’s over 60 percent. For third marriages, it’s around 75 percent.”
She added that generationally attitudes toward marriage are changing, especially among today’s younger adults.
“More and more millennials are not getting married because they see their friends are getting divorced, their parents have gotten divorced,” she said. “And even though they’re not choosing to get married, the pressure is still on them. I don’t think it’s culture specific. It’s across the board.”
So, what is social marriage and how does it differ from traditional marriage? Yang explained it’s pretty much the same, but with one huge difference.
“This concept of social marriage, it lets two people agree to be in a committed, loving relationship without signing a legal document,” she said. “The legal document nowadays has a lot more cons that it does pros.”
She added marriage has changed so much since its inception centuries ago that it is possibly outdated in today’s modern world.
“My book talks about how the concept of marriage started so long ago during the Middle Ages,” Yang said. “Back then things were so different. Women had to get married to own property through their husbands. There were all these different beliefs that don’t exist nowadays.”
So, the real problem with marriage is how people are just blindly signing on for condition they don’t even know exist and can affect them down the road, Yang said.
“Nowadays, when people get married, they’re not just entering into a committed relationship,” she said. “They’re signing a contract without reading or understanding all the terms. The terms aren’t even presented. You’re signing a marriage certificate and there are all these invisible pages that you know nothing about.”
Yang said one example in a legal marriage people don’t realize is you’re agreeing to take on all your spouse’s debt. Another example is the concept of spousal support and who can end up paying who, for how much and for how long.
“People don’t even know what they’re agreeing to,” she said.
One thing couples can do to mitigate risk in a divorce is sign a prenuptial agreement, Yang said. But she was careful to add prenups come with their own pitfalls.
“If you’re going to get married, at least sign a prenup,” she said. “But the problem with prenups is they are not 100 percent guaranteed to be enforceable. And the provisions in the prenup are enforceable at a judge’s discretion. A judge might say, ‘I think this is reasonable. I will uphold it.’ Or a judge might say, ‘I think these terms are crazy. I’m going to throw them out.’ And it depends on what judge you have. Every judge is different.”
As for social marriage, Yang said it’s becoming more and more popular, especially among millennials for a few reasons.
“They’re not getting legally married,” she said. “They don’t want to agree to all these invisible terms and with the risk of divorce being so high. But they also don’t want all the pressures of not getting married either. So, they’re getting married without a piece of paper.”
Yang believes so much in social marriage, she said she practices what she preaches.
“My husband and I have been together for 10 years,” she said. “We’ve never signed a legal marriage certificate. We call each other husband and wife. We cohabitate. We purchased a house together.
“Everything just needs to be communicated. If we want to buy a house together, we discuss it and then put each other on title.”
Persons who would like to discuss any aspect of family law can phone Law & Mediation Offices of Elizabeth Yang at (877) or log onto www.yanglawoffices.com.